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Ohio University forward, Joe Breslin, shouts in celebration as he celebrates the first goal of the game for the Bobcats made by Michael Harris with his teammates. 

Hockey: Two powers to collide as Ohio prepares to host Lindenwood for a Central States Collegiate Hockey League showdown

Two powers to collide as Ohio prepares to host Lindenwood for a Central States Collegiate Hockey League showdown. 

For the fully-initiated Ohio hockey fan, this weekend needs no introduction. It’s been circled, starred and X’ed on the calendar in red marker several times over. This is one of the big ones.

For the uninitiated, here’s the idea: No. 3 Lindenwood (8- 5-1), the top team in the Cen­tral States Collegiate Hockey League, is coming to Bird Arena this weekend to face No. 7 Ohio. The Bobcats (12-2- 1) are the second ranked team in the league, and a sweep of Lindenwood would give them the division lead.

“They’re ready to go for sure,” said coach Sean Hogan. “Every team in the CSCHL is hard to play against, and it gives us a chance to show the Bird Arena crowd what we’re made of.”

Lindenwood is by far the highest-ranked team that Ohio has faced at home this season. It is also the team’s first division game the Bob­cats will play at home, after going on the road to face Robert Morris and Iowa State earlier in the season. Linden­wood holds first place in the CSCHL with 16 points, while Ohio is second with 11.

The matchup pins two of the best power play units in the country head to head. Lindenwood’s offense carries a strong 32.4 percent power play percentage, while Ohio’s power play defense has been nearly impenetrable by kill­ing 95.9 percent of opposing power plays.

Another interesting wrin­kle is that of a dominant home team facing off against a team that has seen early success on the road. Ohio has won all nine of its home games, outscoring its opponents at a devastating rate of 53-6. Lindenwood, meanwhile, has started a modest 3-1 record on the road, outscoring its op­ponents 16-9, versus a 36-32 split for the Lions at home.

Although the Bobcats were forced to spread out their physical play on road ice surfaces, playing inside their smaller friendly confines should allow them to explore the game plan that has result­ed in their undefeated home start.

“It’s a smaller ice surface, and a lot of teams aren’t used to that,” said forward Nathan De La Torre. “I think other teams are surprised with how quickly we take up all the space. We’re a fast team and we’re a physical team, so we definitely use the smaller ice to our advantage.”

Michael Harris, a forward who scored five points last weekend and leads the team with 19 points on the season, will lead Ohio into the week­end.

The biggest question for the Bobcats will be Aaron Alkema, the star goalie who was removed from a game at Iowa State with an injury. He will be available to play, but Hogan hasn’t named a starter. Ryan Heltion and Scott Boyd will be ready to fill in if nec­essary.

Lindenwood will bring sev­eral skilled scorers into Bird Arena, led by Brandon Rumble, who has 17 points on the sea­son. Lindenwood has gone on an 8-0-1 run since beginning the season on an 0-5 skid.

Ohio has won four straight, including one shootout win, against its rivals dating back to the CSCHL tournament at the end of the 2012-13 season.

The series has massive implications for the team and the CSCHL going forward. The halfway point of the sea­son is quickly approaching and Ohio has an opportunity to lock up the division lead for nearly two months before these teams face off again on Lindenwood’s ice in January.

@_TonyWolfe_

aw987712@OHIO.EDU

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